At 76, George Franklin may be the oldest High Cotton award winner. But the Rayville, La., producer isn't showing any signs of retiring from farming or from being a good conservationist.
“I started my career in conservation in the 1940s, and I felt then and now that farmers should be good stewards of the land,” said Franklin. “I intend for my land to be in much better condition than when I began farming it.”
Franklin, who received the High Cotton award for the Mid-South Region during a breakfast meeting at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Atlanta, said he had learned during his nearly 58 years of farming that cotton, rice and ducks make a good combination.
“I like a cotton-and-rice rotation, two years of each,” he noted in accepting the High Cotton award. “The rice water cuts down on the chemical use in cotton. The water kills the weeds, and cotton raises the pH of the soil. The organic matter increases and helps the water stay home rather than running off into the ditches.”
Franklin said he also believes trees are a key to successful conservation efforts. “I started the first hardwood plantation in the South,” he said. “Oak trees produce a lot of food for all wildlife.
“Much of my success in farming and wildlife conservation has been due to our participation in things like the Quack-back program, the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program, and I would recommend that all landowners participate in such programs.”
In introducing the High Cotton Mid-South winner, Delta Farm Press Editor Elton Robinson noted that Franklin had flown 35 missions as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 bomber over Europe in World War II.
“When I came home from World War II to begin farming, I was only 19 years old,” said Franklin. “It did give you a much greater appreciation for life and the soil and water that too many take for granted.”
Franklin was one of six High Cotton winners to be honored at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences. The others included John Short Williams Jr., Pinehurst, Ga.; Jackie, Rickie and Terry Burris of Wellman, Texas; and Daniel Burns of Dos Palos, Calif.
Williams, who farms 800 acres of cotton along with peanuts, soybeans, wheat and rye, said he was “very humbled and very appreciative” of receiving the High Cotton award.
Jackie Burris, accepting the award on behalf of his brothers, Rickie and Terry, said he wanted to thank their father for “instilling a strong work ethic in us and giving us a chance to farm.”
The Burrises farm more than 4,000 acres of cotton, grain sorghum and peanuts on the Texas High Plains.
Burns, who operates 4,500 acres in Merced and Fresno counties in California, thanked his wife, Jean, for her understanding and support during the many 16-hour days he puts in farming.
He also thanked Bill Weir, Merced County, Calif., farm advisor, for nominating him and for working with him on the development of an ultra narrow row cotton system specifically adapted for California agriculture.
“A year ago, if someone had said I would be standing here today, I would have said, ‘no way,’” he noted. “Four years ago, we started work on a project of planting two rows on 30-inch beds, and the results have been tremendously beneficial to San Juan Ranch, our operation in Dos Palos. Without Bill's help, neither would have been possible.”
The High Cotton Awards, now in their eighth year, are sponsored by Farm Press/Primedia Publications through a grant to The Cotton Foundation. Farm Press publishes Delta Farm Press, Southeast Farm Press, Southwest Farm Press and Western Farm Press.
Co-sponsors of this year's awards are John Deere Company, Delta and Pine Land Co., Griffin L.L.C., Helena Chemical Co., The Seam and Syngenta.